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Why Are YouTube Ads So Long?

“Why am I getting 4-minute-long ads on YouTube?” you think to yourself after skipping yet another advertisement between videos. These days, it feels like the length of some YouTube ads are longer than the average television commercial (you’re not hallucinating) and just as frequent on some channels.

Back in 2016, six-second ads were all the rage, and viewers liked them because there was less intrusion during a viewing experience. So, where did all those short and sweet ads go? Why are YouTube ads so long?

We’re going to get to the bottom of it today.

Different Types of YouTube Ads

Before we start talking about video ads on YouTube, we need to go over some of the basics. There are 7 different types of ads, but the ones that you see the most are:

  • TrueView or “skippable” ads – can be skipped after 5 seconds. Minimum length is between 6-20 seconds. Maximum length is 6 minutes.
  • Non-skippable pre-roll ads 15-20 seconds in duration. Appear on videos that are at least 8-10 minutes. Pre-roll ads appear in the beginning of videos.
  • Non-skippable mid-roll ads – same as pre-roll ads but instead of appearing at the beginning, they appear in the middle of a video that at least 8-10 minutes long.

The Evolution of Ad Length

MediaRadar analyzed online videos that had been posted on multiple platforms between January and February of 2018 and 2019 to see what kinds of ads were running on YouTube. Remember that six-second ad mentioned earlier? Well, as it turns out, somewhere along the line, longer ads become popular again. In 2018, 20% of all ads on YouTube were six-second ads, and in 2019, that dropped to 16.5%.

Thirty-second video ads went up—19% in 2018 to 24% in 2019. Further study revealed the 15 seconds was the most common length of an advertisement, making up 47% of video ads running on YouTube in 2018 and 2019.

All said, most advertisers know that people don’t particularly enjoy ads. Attention spans are decreasing around the world due to a flood of information and social media. It could also explain why some advertisers choose to cram their message into the first 5-10 seconds of an ad, since it can’t be skipped. They then leave you with a call-to-action, thereby increasing the chance of engagement.

This also saves the advertiser money, since there is a clause that states videos skipped before 30 seconds don’t cost anything. But does that super-short blurb of information really move you and increase brand favorability? Or do you need something a bit more moving and emotional?

The Long Form Ad

Even in a world of ever-shrinking attention spans, there also exists TrueView ads that are between 3-6 minutes long and are appropriately called “long form ads.” They may seem like a bit of waste, seeing how the viewer can skip those lengthy ads after 5 seconds. But there is a reason why some TrueView YouTube ads are so long.

It has to do with marketing, ad retention and brand favorability.

Companies often create both long-form and short video ads to test the effectiveness of a certain message or to stimulate your emotions. This is why you often see longer skippable ads on YouTube containing a relatable or entriguing story. These usually have richly developed themes, characters, and visual elements included that are meant to capture your attention, so you stick with the ad until the end.

Long form ads are also used to test the viability of a message. Drop off points — when you lose interest — are closely monitored and revised until the advertiser has an effective and attention-grabbing advertisement. The parts that stick with viewers are then edited into shorter versions of the long form video ad.


So, now you know why some YouTube ads are so long: it’s all marketing tactics. Advertisers can use both long and short ads to attract their target audience, because they realize that not everyone is going to want to sit through a story just to learn about the product. Yet, when it comes to making a lasting impression, longer video ads do the trick.

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  • Valerie is a digital nomad who writes to travel the world. She is also a professional dancer, BJJ practitioner, personal fitness trainer, and yoga instructor. Her work is supported by an A.S. in Exercise Science and a B.A. in Liberal Studies with a concentration in Dance.

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